Wednesday, July 07, 2010

In Other News: WoW Goes Back to 31pt Talent Trees.


Looks like they had a change of heart about Divine Storm being the lvl10 'core' skill for Ret:

After further reflection, we don't think Divine Storm makes a good level 10 Ret ability. It really wants to be an AE attack, and it's just hard to make an AE attack a signature ability usable in as many situations as a signature attack deserves to be.

Divine Storm will probably go back into the talent tree. It won't be the 31-point though. Both the 31-point and the 10 ability need to have more single-target use. That means something like 3 new abilities for Retribution and several new or modified talents on top of that. Crazy.

As you can see, we're still iterating a lot on paladins. Our lack of communication is because things are changing quickly, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to share it all until things feel a little more stable.


It'll be interesting to see what they do with Repentance. If CC is to be a major part of Cataclysm, as it was in TBC, Ret may well need it to be useful in more challenging 5-mans. I'm not sure that we'll see 3 new abilities, DS and Repentance still make sense in there. For levelling purposes at least it seems reasonable to place SoCommand or SoVengeance accessible at a lowish level (<30 preferably) which could mean SoC as the level 10 Ret Ability, leading to only one new skill being required for during development.

We play in interesting times, that's for sure.


When Cataclysm was initially announced to include no new Tier of Talents, elimination of more generic passive talents, yet 5 more Talent Points I was sceptical that they could pull it off. So, apparently, were Blizzard. Now the talent trees are being compressed back down to 31pts (7 Tiers).

Cataclysm Class & Mastery Systems Update

When we first announced our design goals for class talent trees back at BlizzCon 2009, one of our major stated focuses was to remove some of the boring and "mandatory" passive talents. We mentioned that we wanted talent choices to feel more flavorful and fun, yet more meaningful at the same time. Recently, we had our fansites release information on work-in-progress talent tree previews for druids, priests, shaman, and rogues. From those previews and via alpha test feedback, a primary response we heard was that these trees didn’t incorporate the original design goals discussed at BlizzCon. This response echoes something we have been feeling internally for some time, namely that the talent tree system has not aged well since we first increased the level cap beyond level 60. In an upcoming beta build, we will unveil bold overhauls of all 30 talent trees.


The Rise of Specialization

We want to focus the talent trees towards your chosen style of gameplay right away. That first point you spend in a tree should be very meaningful. If you choose Enhancement, we want you to feel like an Enhancement shaman right away, not thirty talent points later. When talent trees are unlocked at level 10, you will be asked to choose your specialization (e.g. whether you want to be an Arms, Fury or Protection warrior) before spending that first point. Making this choice comes with certain benefits, including whatever passive bonuses you need to be effective in that role, and a signature ability that used to be buried deeper in the talent trees. These abilities and bonuses are only available by specializing in a specific tree. Each tree awards its own unique active ability and passives when chosen. The passive bonuses range from flat percentage increases, like a 20% increase to Fire damage for Fire mages or spell range increases for casters, to more interesting passives such as the passive rage regeneration of the former Anger Management talent for Arms warriors, Dual-Wield Specialization for Fury warriors and Combat rogues, or the ability to dual-wield itself for Enhancement shaman.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.


In Summary

When players reach level 10, they are presented with basic information on the three specializations within their class and are asked to choose one. Then they spend their talent point. The other trees darken and are unavailable until 31 points are spent in the chosen tree. The character is awarded an active ability, and one or more passive bonuses unique to the tree they've chosen. As they gain levels, they'll alternate between receiving a talent point and gaining new skills. They'll have a 31-point tree to work down, with each talent being more integral and exciting than they have been in the past. Once they spend their 31'st point in the final talent (at level 70), the other trees open up and become available to allocate points into from then on. As characters move into the level 78+ areas in Cataclysm, they'll begin seeing items with a new stat, Mastery. Once they learn the Mastery skill from their class trainer they'll receive bonuses from the stat based on the tree they've specialized in.

We understand that these are significant changes and we still have details to solidify. We feel, however, that these changes better fulfill our original class design goals for Cataclysm, and we're confident that they will make for a better gameplay experience. Your constructive feedback is welcomed and appreciated.


Simply by removing talents which provide generic bonuses to hit, crit and the like Blizzard left a lot of empty space in a lot of talent trees which would have to be filled. It appears that in most cases this space could never be filled in time, hence the tree compression.

This explains why the new Holy Tree, listed last week, felt so sparse and lacking in genuine interest: it's the Vanilla tree, with all the tedium associated with it. No interesting proc mechanics, no reactionary abilities, just 7 tiers of abilities you're expected to throw most of your weight into. The worry must now be that in culling talents for Cataclysm they'll cull the most interesting (by hardest to balance) talents in favour of the boring 5% Crit to X+Y Spells passive talents.

They've thrown in the towel when it comes to hybridisation of specs for hybrid classes (31/10 being the most you can reach from the looks of things) so off-the-wall builds will be impossible.

Classes which rely on major talents for more interesting leveling experience may feel hard done by, even if they get core talents (Mortal Strike, Dual Wield etc.) at level 10 when they choose their specialisation. For me Vengeance really keeps the momentum up when questing simply because you want to keep that buff up. With Crusader Strike being a lvl1 talent I struggle to see which ability will be classed as Core for any Paladin Spec; Holy Shield, Holy Shock (yuck) and Seal of Command perhaps. Eliminating ranks make the process of gaining Experience much less interesting, yet we know that Questing itself will be more fun.

It may all work out fine and dandy. It may be horrific and be a genuine dumbing-down of classes. I wait on the changes with baited breath. I hope to god we don't see a redux of the Vanilla Paladin talents.


In fact, when we invest our 31st point (at lvl70) we're then given 10 and only 10 more points to place where we like. So no 11pt talents from other trees, and only Tier 1 needs to broadly appeal to any spec (Tier just should but doesn't need to)

Divine Storm will be the Ret lvl10 Skill, and there will be a new bottom-of-the-tree ability at 31pts. (Source)


Chris 07/07/2010, 17:49  

So we defeat a lack of choice by adding... a lack of choice.

31 points in a single tree before a second opens up another 12-13 points, so we will get basically the 11 point in one and the 31 in another, I forsee cookie cutter.

Anonymous 07/07/2010, 22:13  

yes only ten points else where, but what if you only need 3 points per tier, so at ten you get the one point in teir 4, and wee keep the 11 tiers in each spec

Suicidal Zebra 07/07/2010, 22:26  

Sorry. In the same thread GC stated that it's 5 pts per tier.

Chris 08/07/2010, 17:23  

This feels very restrictive to be honest. In many ways it has seemed that making the talent trees deeper was always a bad plan because it gives massive numbers of prerequisites to any single late talent. The act of widening the trees would have been more interesting, giving more trees the capability of the Feral Druid.

A 5 wide protection Paladin tree might have 2 "streams" focused on pure protection (survival talents to 51, new abilities), or a PvP type Protection Healing stream focused on survival and increased self healing capacity allowing two different approaches to the same problem (survival).

As it is however Blizzard has always acted to kill secondary talent builds (Sheathadin, Shockadin, RetProt, ProtRet, Wiseadin etc) to replace them with a single almost cookie cutter variant. I want to see more variation, I want the two Paladins in my group to be specced sheathe and beacon to cover different scenarios, I want the flexibility to not go "omg noob, he doesn't have x".

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